CHTC calls for inquiry into torture and death of Nabayan Chakma in military custody

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Hill Voice, 21 March 2022, Special Correspondent: The International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC) calls for an independent investigation into alleged torture and death of Nabayan Chakma Milon in military custody.

In a press statement on Monday (21 March) signed by three Co-Chair of the CHTC, Sultana Kamal, Elsa Stamatopoulou and Myrna Cunningham Kain, the CHT Commission says that the CHTC is deeply shocked to learn about the death of Nabayan Chakma Milon (alias Sourav, 47), an indigenous political activist reportedly in military custody in Dighinala, Khagrachari. The Commission calls for a prompt, impartial, and effective judicial investigation, prosecution of those responsible, and reparations for the family of the deceased.

Press statement mentioned that Niron Chakma, in charge of UPDF’s Publicity and Publications, alleged that on 15 March 2022, at around 3.30 am, a group of soldiers from Dighinala Zone raided Monibhodro Karbari Para of Baganpara area, Word No. 1, under Dighinala sub-district. During the raid, the army reportedly surrounded the house of Shanti Ranjan Chakma (48), a resident of the village. At that time, the army arrested UPDF’s organizer Milon who was staying at the house for medical treatment. After arrest, the military allegedly inflicted physical torture on him. When his condition deteriorated, they brought him to Dighinala Upazila Hospital, where the duty doctor pronounced him dead at around 9 am.

The CHTC is very concerned that there is no public information regarding whether investigations have been held into other serious allegations of enforced disappearance, torture and death in custody of indigenous political activists in the CHT. Some of the cases reported in the media include:

Michael Chakma (40), UPDF activist, was allegedly picked up by the security forces from Narayanganj on 16 April 2019. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Nabin Jyoti Chakma (32), Bujendra Chakma (50), and Ruchil Chakma Rasel (26)  three activists of UPDF, were allegedly picked up by the military from the Kripapur area of the Dighinala sub-district, later the military claimed that they were killed in an encounter, 26 August 2019.

Gyano Shankar Chakma (45), PCJSS activist was killed in a crossfire with Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in the Bandarban district on 3 April 2019.4 However, PCJSS claimed that he was picked up by security forces from Chittagong earlier on 14 March 2019.

Romel Chakma (19), an HSC candidate and general secretary of Pahari Chatra Parishad’s Rangamati unit, died, allegedly, due to torture under the security forces’ custody, 9 April 2017.

Timir Baran Chakma, a member of the PCJSS (MN Larma faction), died, allegedly due to torture in custody of the Bangladesh military, August 2014.6

The 1997 CHT Accord stipulates that the Bangladesh military dismantle all temporary installations from the CHT and that law and order in the CHT be placed under the jurisdiction of the Hill District Councils. However, such provisions are not yet implemented.

Bangladesh has obligations to investigate allegations of torture and ensure accountability and justice for victims, under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and under its own Constitution and the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act, 2013.

Expressing grave concern over continued impunity regarding custodial death and militarization in CHT, the Commission calls upon the Government to undertake a prompt, impartial, and independent judicial investigation, bring the perpetrators to justice and take measures to ensure redress for victims. We also demand proper investigation of the previous alleged incidents of custodial death, encounter, and enforced disappearances. We urge the Government to implement the CHT Accord in full, and hand over law and order functions to the Hill District Councils.